Josh Hamilton has two fractured ribs

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton learned Tuesday he has small fractures to the seventh and eighth ribs that previous tests did not identify, and he is hoping to return to action during the final week of the regular season.

Dr. Robert Watkins, a renowned back specialist in the Los Angeles area, gave him an anti-inflammatory injection and an epidural to help numb the nerves and provide pain relief.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said it usually takes 48 to 72 hours before determining if the treatment works. Once the pain becomes manageable, Hamilton can return to baseball activities.

"The treatment is the same if it was bruised or fractured," Hamilton said before Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Angels. "But it's a relief to know that I've been in such pain for a reason.

"It is what it is. I got the injections today and a couple of nerve blocks and the injections to the ribs, and it's already feeling better. But I'll know for sure if this is really, really going to help in the next two days."

Hamilton spent more than five hours Monday at Watkins' office getting tested, including undergoing a CT scan. He had another CT scan Tuesday that detected the small fractures, which Daniels referred to as "stable."

Hamilton, who leads the majors with a .361 batting average and has 31 home runs and 97 RBIs, said he did not expect to play in Oakland this weekend and was targeting a return to the lineup during the final homestand of the year.

He hasn't played since Sept. 4, when he crashed into the right-center field wall making a catch at Target Field in Minnesota.

"If this thing plays out as I hope and pray it will, I would play maybe the last four or five games of the season," Hamilton said. "That would be pretty nice, whether it would be DH or what."

Rangers manager Ron Washington said Monday that the club would like Hamilton to get between 20 and 30 at-bats before the end of the season so that he's in rhythm and ready for a potential postseason. Texas was eight games up on Oakland in the AL West and had a magic number of six entering Tuesday's play.

Washington said Tuesday that he plans to use Hamilton in the outfield when he is healthy enough to play.

"I won't say he's not going to play center field, but he'll probably start in left," Washington said.

That arrangement, however, won't necessarily hold for the postseason.

"We'll put our best lineup out there if we find ourselves in the playoffs," Washington said. "If that is with Josh in center field, he'll be in center field. All I want him to do is what he can do."

Hamilton took some swings last week, but felt pain and backed off. He has not attempted any baseball activities since. The Rangers are 8-6 in Hamilton's absence.

"I am optimistic and I'm focusing on what I have to do to get back to where I need to be and want to be," Hamilton said. "The biggest thing is pain management right now. Then it will be a fast, gradual buildup to see if I can get back out there."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.